Football: It was the medium wot did it - or was it the media?

What the papers said had a bearing on Hoddle's fate - as they did when a World Cup hero was sacrificed - The FA are to put new emphasis on the need for good PR.
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The Independent Online
WITHOUT NEEDING to follow the Eileen Drewery line that Glenn Hoddle's downfall was the direct result of a media witch-hunt, there is no doubt that the career of any England manager depends almost as much on his relationship with the Press as his ability to produce a winning team. It may have been a heavyweight newspaper that struck the final punch by reporting Hoddle's controversial beliefs, but several of the tabloids had long been inflicting body blows to his diminishing credibility.

So who has the media in mind to replace him? In the absence of an obvious successor, some of the tabloids have been unusually coy. Most have joined the "quality" papers in suggesting that Alex Ferguson would be ideal, though none has offered evidence he would renege on Manchester United or swallow his Scottish pride by leading out England at Wembley.

Every tabloid has warmly mentioned Kevin Keegan. To pretend that we sports writers never put personal interest alongside the national one would be hypocrisy. Indeed, some of those members of the media supporting a return by Terry Venables would forgive him if he sold the FA Cup for scrap metal, as would thousands of fans. They continue arguing that he is "the people's choice" and a fine coach, but his clubby relationship with them is transparently relevant. Although not as close to them as Venables, Keegan understands journalists' pressures.

Significantly, it seems that the FA are to place fresh emphasis on the ability of the next coach to cope with the media. With that in mind Howard Wilkinson made sure that he slipped a few little gems of headline material and some jokes into his first press conference. Unlike Hoddle and Venables, he speaks grammatically acceptable English, which should avoid misunderstandings, though at Leeds it was not unknown for him to talk grammatically correct gibberish. A media-watch last week revealed the following views:

Daily Mail - Jeff Powell: "Having lost their chairman and chief executive to a scandal and now their national team coach to the tolerance of his eccentricities, the FA are crying out for convincing leadership. I believe Venables is ready to give that once again in the area that matters most of all... on the pitch." Nigel Clarke: "I believe [Venables] is the best- equipped coach to take England into the European Championship finals." Martin Lipton: "Venables carries more baggage than a railway porter."

The Mirror - Harry Harris: "Pensioner Bobby Robson will come to England's rescue after Wednesday's friendly against world champions France. The PSV Eindhoven coach is set to be handed the job on a temporary basis with a brief to steer England through the Euro 2000 qualifiers."

The Express - Paul McCarthy: "Ferguson is by far the best candidate to replace Glenn Hoddle and restore some dignity and sanity to a role that has become fearsomely tainted."

The Sun - Brian Woolnough: "Keegan fits their bill and the FA are not convinced that anyone who says he does not want the job will turn it down at the crunch." Charlie Wyett: "Terry Venables is the overwhelming fans' favourite to return as England boss. He stormed to victory in SunSport's exclusive phone poll... he clocked up an amazing 60 per cent."

Daily Star - Bill Thornton: "If the FA seriously mean to choose from a list of non-Englishmen to fill the biggest job in domestic football, then they must have the Glaswegian Fergie at the top of the pile. His credentials so far outstrip those of all other candidates that it is inconceivable that acting chief executive Davies hasn't been instructed to sound him out."

Daily Sport - Peter Shilton: "Bobby Robson would be the ideal choice and he could help groom someone like Bryan Robson or Kevin Keegan who, quite rightly, want to get more experience of club football."

The Times - Matt Dickinson: "Hoddle's successor must be a man as credible in front of the television cameras as on the training ground. Whether the FA can persuade Fergson or Arsene Wenger to leave the jobs they do so well, and with such rewards, must be doubtful."

The Independent - Glenn Moore: "Although the list includes some worthy contenders, Ferguson's cv is better than any. He would be a popular choice with the Government. Ferguson is closer to leading Labour figures than is commonly realised...The question marks concern his sometimes tetchy dealings with the media, his occasional outbursts against referees, his nationality and even his identification with United."

The Guardian - David Lacey: "Anyone who can persuade Steve Bould to pass the ball out of defence to a friendly shirt instead of whacking it up the field would surely find taking over from Hoddle a relatively simple business. We are, of course, talking about Arsenal's Arsene Wenger, the best manager England could have but will probably never get."

Daily Telegraph - Henry Winter: "Ferguson has long been admired at Lancaster Gate, which has recently expressed its willingness to look at non-English candidates. On their more specific requirements, the FA want a man with three particular qualities: a manager who knows English players, can inspire them and has experience of the media's wiles. Ferguson certainly fits the bill here."